I had been warned that visiting Stonehenge could be a bit of a letdown. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get close to the stones unless I was on a special tour, and I heard it didn’t look as massive in person as it does in pictures. These things were all true, but it was the nearness of several roads that really surprised me. It’s as if it’s being surrounded like a drive-through pharmacy that needs access on all sides.
Maybe Stonehenge is a little miffed about being penned in like a McDonald’s and has decided to reveal some extra goodies in an attempt to expand.
Just under 1,000 yards away from the familiar stones, archaeologists recently found another circular structure, though this one is entirely below ground at this time. The scientists found a circle of large pits, now filled with earth, that they think once held a wooden poles forming a circle. Don’t call it Woodhenge, though. That name has already been claimed by an other nearby ring.
This discovery is the most significant at the site in 50 years, and it adds to an ever increasing network of circles, roads, earthworks, and tombs in the Wiltshire area. The BBC has a nifty video and article about the find. Check out the whole area on Google Maps, too, and use Google Earth if you can. It is really something to see how many other ancient structures there are so close to the famous Stonehenge.
I hope this new discovery helps to highlight both the extent to which this is an important historical site and the extent of what we have yet to discover about the site and its surroundings. Maybe the most disappointing thing about visiting Stonehenge was how so much attention had been paid to providing a gift shop (which was very well stocked, and yes, I bought things) while there was hardly any educational information available. Even English Heritage seems to think the way Stonehenge is presently encroached upon by roads and even its own parking lot and gift shop does a terrible disservice to the monument itself and its visitors and is seeking funding to have the area redeveloped so that the environmental impact of modern times is greatly lessened. Unfortunately, due to harsh economic times, the government had to withdraw its financial support from the project in June 2010. I hope that the continued discovery of additional apparently interconnected sites will help fund the plan.
Please follow the English Heritage and Stonehenge Visitor Center site links below for information on the redevelopment plans.